Portland, OR

Wedding season 2022: principles for a stronger first year of marriage

Jeremy Ross

Eugene and Asya PomaPublic Information of Jehovah's Witnesses

"For a solid two weeks, I was like, this is the best thing ever!" Asya gushed as she wrapped her arms around Eugene. "After that," she continued as she disapprovingly turned towards her husband, "we started seeing our differences."

Many newlyweds have had similar experiences as Eugene and Asya. Starting a life together can be exciting and fulfilling. But those initial emotions are often short-lived. The first year of marriage is notoriously difficult for new couples, often putting them at high risk for early divorce. Why is the first year so hard? "Newlyweds seem prone to having idealized notions of marriage and of each other," cites one study, "which may put newlyweds at risk for disillusionment with marriage."

As the wedding season begins in 2022, how can newlyweds navigate first-year challenges?

While the Pomas celebrate their 2nd anniversary, they say that having a spiritual approach helped them adjust to unrealized expectations and cultural challenges common to many new couples. And for them, the stress would be amplified.

From war to pandemic

Due to unrest, Eugene fled the Central African Republic and eventually arrived in Portland in 2016. He met Portland native Asya among French-speaking friends and a relationship slowly grew. Four years later, their wedding plans would change drastically with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We thought everything was falling apart, " says Eugene. "The courthouses were closing down. The reception venues closed down. We had to fight to get everything done quickly."

After getting engaged on March 7th of 2020, the Pomas moved the date of their wedding up, getting one of the last marriage licenses from the courthouse in Hillsboro the day before it closed. To make matters worse, Asya suffers from asthma, making any plans for even a simple celebration impossible. "We didn't have a honeymoon, no wedding photos, no family could visit," she sadly recalls.

Although Zoom allowed them to have an international wedding with friends and family visiting virtually from all over the world, this would just be the start of challenges that needed a creative solution.

Adjusting to a new life

"I just had a lot of expectations that were not the reality." Asya relates, "In African culture the man goes to work and takes care of the family spiritually but that's it. But there's a whole house to clean and cars to take care of. His skill set was boiling eggs and making plantains, both of which I am allergic to."

"She did a lot at home," Eugene agrees, "and she didn't feel like I was helping."

While sharing in cooking and cleaning may seem like minor issues to begin with, a larger issue would add to their list of disagreements. "One of the biggest challenges was that in Africa, people are very close. It is very different in America." Eugene explains. "It is common for me to talk on the phone to many people, even other women. Asya didn't understand that and it would make her cry."

In Eugene's culture, long phone calls to friends, even single female friends, were a harmless social norm, but to Asya this was not a part of married life. "It's very disrespectful from my perspective," Asya responds. "I've been to Africa and so I understood it, but coming from my culture, I would never do that."

How would they approach such a potentially volatile situation?

Although Asya's emotional makeup made communicating difficult, and Eugene had trouble being patient, they credit a spiritual approach to finding balance. As Jehovah's Witnesses, their use of bible principles and helpful bible-based articles guided them to resolve their first-year troubles. For example, Asya quotes 1 Corinthians 13:5: "'Love is not selfish.' So we had to stop thinking about our feelings first. That was our inclination for the first few months. It was like I would say, 'This thing hurt me. I'm hurt! Why should your feelings be put above my feelings?' We had to start thinking about the other person's feelings about an issue first."

"We had a communication issue," Eugene adds. "Patience was key."

Not an instant fix

Although the resources available put them on a good track to work on solutions to their problems, it wasn't a quick fix. "A good friend told me," Eugene relates, "'you have to be willing to fight for your marriage.' That told me that even if you feel like your efforts aren't working, you have to be willing to put in the work."

The Poma's would fight for their marriage by continuing to revisit advice on marriage on a weekly basis using bible-based articles.

"Sometimes we would go to JW.org and search for any articles about marriage and discuss them together," he says. "Then we would ask ourselves: Do you see yourself in this? How can we make this better?"

Understandably, the process took time. "We would read an article, sit down and have a conversation, and by the end be in agreement." says Asya. "And then 2 weeks later we would be sitting reading the same article, having the same conversation! It was like we understood the information in our heads, but we had to change our inclinations, and that is a difficult thing."

Within a short time however, the Poma's began to see results. "We definitely started seeing the benefits of what we were learning after our first year's anniversary," Asya confirms.

After everything they had been through in such a short period of time, celebrating their 2nd anniversary confirmed to them that their unselfish attitude and spiritual outlook helped them to find balance in their married life. Asya happily acknowledges how much Eugene now helps around the house. They were also able to agree on clear boundaries for people outside of their marriage, while still being able to maintain old friendships. Eugene explains, "Now if they really want to talk to me, or if they need something, we create a group chat that includes Aysa."

The Pomas whole-heartedly recommend the same resources that helped them make it through first-year challenges. "The article entitled Surviving the First Year of Marriage helped us to identify what we needed to work on so that we could have a happy marriage." Eugene says, "We didn't always know the issues, but those articles helped us to identify the problems and build the skills to work on them."

Asya quickly agrees, "We know now that if we seek out and use bible principles, it will work out, even if we don't immediately see how."

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Portland Resident and representative for Jehovah's Witnesses sharing stories from our community.

Portland, OR

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